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Saying Farewell to No. 0

Editor's Note: Thank you tears of appreciation and athletic-love will be shared this afternoon when K-State takes on Iowa State at 12:30 p.m. in what will be the final home game in the careers of Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly. Sports Extra featured Kelly on Thursday, and today tries to put into questions and answers Pullen's four-year stay as a Wildcat.

The leading candidate for Big 12 Conference Player of the Year recognition, Pullen has scored 2,037 points putting him in the No. 2 spot in K-State history just 78 points in back of Mike Evans, and No. 5 in Big 12 history. No Wildcat has ever played more games than Pullen (131), scored more 3-pointers (287), had more twin figure scoring games (101) or picked off more steals (207).

Earlier this week Sports Extra sat down with the Maywood, Ill., product to define his Wildcat career.


By Mark Janssen

SPORTS EXTRA: Jake, four years ... 131 games ... is it hard to believe that this will be the last one in Bramlage Coliseum, and the end is no more than 10 games away?

JACOB PULLEN: I've refused to face that fact. I've chosen to think about just playing games, wining each game and not thinking about the few number of games that are left.
SE: Are you an emotional guy? Will there be tears when you're surrounded by your parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents?

Pullen: I don't know. Again, I've tried not to think about it. I'm trying to think of it as just another game and let the emotions of the moment affect my play. (Pause) I'm sure it will be tough for my family.

SE: So many wins ... 93 of them ... which ones are the most special to you?

Pullen: Oh, there are so many of them. The two KU wins, the NCAA win over USC my freshman year, the streak we went on at the end of the year my sophomore year in the Big 12, last year's Elite Eight run, and this year just turning our year around to be relevant again. There are just a ton of special moments and wins.

SE: Jake, there will be a time when that No. 0 jersey is hoisted to the rafters alongside some elite company when it comes to the storied history of K-State basketball. Have you allowed yourself to think about earning that right to be in that company?

Pullen: Nah, I haven't thought about that, or the scoring thing. My teammates keep me updated on how close I am on the scoring thing, but I tell them that I don't want to know ... I don't want to be jinxed. It's just a blessing to be mentioned with some of those names ... Mitch Richmond, Bob Boozer, Rolando Blackman. Sure, it would be great if that call would come someday telling me my jersey is going up. Hopefully I'll have kids by that time to share the moment with them. It would be a memorable moment.

SE: Do you know much about Mike Evans?

Pullen: No I don't ... not here at least. Me being the basketball guru that I am, I have looked at his stats here and how he did in Denver in the NBA. But no, I don't know too much about him. I just know he must have been great. If I am fortunate enough to break his record it will be something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I'm sure he was a great player. His number (No. 12) is up in the rafters.

SE: The thing you'll tell your kids about Kansas State University is what?

Pullen: Just that it was an amazing place. It was the best decision I ever made in my life to come to school here. It's more than just a school. It provided a family atmosphere. There were always people on my side in terms of coaches and teammates. It was just a remarkable experience with so many people important to my development in life.

SE: It's been a pleasure to meet your parents. In the K-State media guide bio, you list your father, Jerome, as having the greatest influence on your life.

Pullen: Everything that has happened to me, he's been a big part of it. He knows how difficult things can be. He's been at all my events from little kid baseball, to AAU tournaments. He was the dad that would drive a bunch of kids to an event and sit there all day long. We'd have a game in the morning, and then another one seven hours later, and he would sit there all day, and then go home and be up going to work on Monday to provide for us. He made me understand what a real man should be like.

SE: And, you list your mother, Charlotte, as your greatest love.

Pullen: No question, I'm a momma's boy. No matter whatever happens in my life she was always that person telling me, "It's going to be OK." You never grow out of the phase of having respect for your mom. Mom would discipline me with the threat of not being able to play basketball. I could play basketball as long as I got a "C" in school, so I made sure to get "C's." But the bad thing was it was seldom better than a "C." If she would have just told me I needed an "A," I'm sure I would have gotten an "A."

SE: Ok, what about this season? Things were a little iffy in January, and then February comes and you, and your teammates, take off. Personally, what happened to your game?

Pullen: I was settling. I wasn't playing aggressively. I wasn't doing anything to help my team win. A light finally came on and told me I needed to get with it and help my team more.

SE: After the Colorado game in Boulder word has it that your brothers put in a three-way call to you. Was that to scold you or to encourage you?

Pullen: A little bit of both. They wanted me to realize that I was a good player and all that people said I was, but they also wanted me to realize that it was getting late and if I didn't pick up my game it was going to be over and we wouldn't have accomplished anything ... there would be nothing to remember me for.

My brothers are my biggest critics. My entire life every time I did something good, they were there to tell me what I did wrong. It always made me work harder because in my mind I had to prove them wrong and it made me work harder. Even last year in the NCAA Tournament, they joked with me telling me that Jimmer (Fredette of BYU) was better than you. They always play devil's advocate with me to make me work harder.

SE: Jake, preseason All-American status, being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, K-State picked No. 1 in the Big 12 by the coaches ... did you feel that pressure early?

Pullen: I don't think so. If anything I was trying to do what other people said I needed to do to maybe impress (NBA) scouts instead of just playing my game. I was trying to be a pure point guard and be efficient and not take too many shots instead of playing my aggressive game. I was just doing too much to please other people than help my team.

SE: Poor games on national television against Duke, and a couple others that were sub-par. How upsetting was that to you?

Pullen: They hurt me a lot because I'm a competitor. To play like that against the No. 1 team in the country hurt bad. I felt a lot of it was on my shoulders and I let the team down. That happened several times when I didn't play to my ability. But in the long run, those games helped wake me up and make me compete harder every chance I get.

There came a time where I looked up and there weren't that many games left. Who wanted to go away with bad memories? In my mind I personally had to turn this thing around and my teammates jumped aboard.

SE: Jake, Mike Evans was a tremendous, tremendous scorer, but wasn't known for his defense. You became KSU's perimeter stopper last year earning a spot on the All-Big 12 Defensive team, and continuing that play this year.

Pullen: That is one of the things I take pride in. I was All-Big 12 last year, but what made me happiest was making the Big 12 Defensive Team.

(Chuckling) All the way through high school, and even as a freshman in college, I was a horrible defender. Honestly, I was horrible. I found the easiest way out of everything. If it wasn't a chance for a clean steal, I didn't try. I'd get out of the way and start coasting back to play offense. My high school coach would be shocked to see me play defense today, and my family is shocked. I just didn't understand how important it was until Frank pounded it into my head.

I felt I lost the game my freshman year when I couldn't guard anyone against Wisconsin (in the NCAA Tournament). I learned from that, and now take tremendous pride in how I play defense.

SE: The mid-year NIT comment about saying you would not play in that event ... are you sorry that came out of your mouth?

Pullen: No, not really. I understand that it caused a lot of attention, but I think my team took it as a challenge and they responded well to it. I think all of us stepped up and took our game to the next level. I think they knew how passionate I was about not playing in it, and they responded.

SE: But you would have played in it?

Pullen:  Of course, I would have played in the NIT, CBI ... I want to play basketball.

SE: Coming up is the Big 12 Championship. You told me last year that you've never won a championship ... a ring ... in your life. How big is next week for Jacob Pullen? You've talked about 3 in 3.

Pullen:  I've never won a ring and they give rings for the tournament. As a team, to give Kansas State University the Big 12 championship is what we want to do. That's three wins in three days.

SE: Jake, from the entire Wildcat Nation, it's been a pleasure to see you play in the last four years.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.